A Remedy Against Choking Under Pressure

18 March 2022

Dr Vanessa Wergin and Honorary Professor Jurgen Beckmann from UQ's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences feature Neuroscience News discussing a unique remedy to help athletes when they fail under stress.

The Sport Psychology working group led by Professor Jurgen Beckmann has been investigating this phenomenon for several years now in search for solutions.

Research on a variety of sports including badminton, beach volleyball, soccer, golf, tae kwon do and gymnastics shows that squeezing a ball dynamically with the left hand is effective for right handers to prevent choking under pressure.

“The underlying assumption was that the right brain hemisphere promotes a comprehensive execution of a highly-automated motor skill, while activation of the verbal representations of skill execution located in the left hemisphere result more in a fragmentation of the execution of the movement. This is detrimental to the flow of motion and increases inaccuracy,” says Professor Beckmann.

Thus for right-handers squeezing with the left hand achieves a stronger activation of the right hemisphere.

“However, further EEG studies by our working group showed that the left-handed dynamic hand squeezing instead triggers more of a relaxation effect, what we refer to as ‘reset mechanism,'” adds Dr Wergin.

“This means that the brain transitions to a high alpha rhythm and a relaxation expands across the cortex.”

Read the article